Many years ago, a media thought leader named Marshall McLuhan stated that “The medium is the message”, meaning that the sources from which we get our information affect the information we receive.
Right now, our culture has no common information to rally around. Our broadcast, print and online media are so fragmented that no one is getting the same message as someone else. While there have always been difference of opinion on the interpretation of facts in media in the past, we are now in the time where the reality of what is a true fact is not universally accepted. What’s worse is that there are people out there who will tell your that what you have experienced yourself is not true because someone else told them not to believe it.
For me, I stopped intentionally searching out the news since the tragedy of the 2016 election. I had such a visceral reaction to know that people who devalued me and people I care about would be in control to try to destroy and vindictively break down anything that would help anyone but themselves would not be good for my mental health. I think like many others, it was bringing up a lot of past traumas of bullying, especially now we had the equivalent of the teachers giving bullies the run of the classroom, but now it was for our entire government.
My philosophy is that what is happening in our national government is a dumpster fire, and I don’t have to pay attention to it to know every detail of what’s happening. We are so inundated by information that we don’t have to go searching for it; it comes to us. I try to keep up with the important things that are happening, but I don’t have to make it a part of my every waking hour.
I feel that a better way to think about it is how does your diet of information improve you as a person? This can be answered from an internal and external perspective.
- Internally, does this help your health? Make you think clearer? Help you be calmer and wiser? Too many people that I know obsess about the information and it makes them crazy. This is one reason why I limit my social media input. Too many things get posted there too quickly and just make my mind race.
- Externally, is there anything that can help you make a difference, and is it helping others in a kind way? Too often, we are thinking about things that while important in the world, we really have no control over. While I feel badly about terrorists in another part of the world, what can I do about it? If I have an action I can take to improve things (write a letter to my Senator, make a donation, etc.), that’s great and I should do it. If I have no action steps to take, then it is out of my control, and obsessing on it doesn’t help me.
Also, does it help my actions be better to people around me and create an improvement in the world? As we see right now by the actions that many people are taking regarding discriminating against minorities, protesting against medical professionals and public health officials who are trying to keep the COVID-19 pandemic to spiral out of control, and numerous other selfish acts, there are a lot of people who are taking detrimental actions because of what they are hearing in the news. We all need to watch our own actions, as sadly the people who are doing so much damage to our country (including the Orange Menace) are believing whatever is said by media outlets that are not concerned with telling the news but propaganda. We all need to be vigilant in what we consume.
Hopefully, we can get to a time when there is a community understanding of how media affects all of us and we all use it wisely. Until then, I’m doing what I can to spend more time with my own needs and sources of media that I trust.